Tucked away near the picturesque landscapes of the driftless region near Marquette, Iowa, lies a captivating archaeological treasure known as the Effigy Mounds National Monument, which is part of Harpers Ferry. This remarkable site encompasses over 2,500 acres of pristine woodland and is home to more than 200 ancient earthwork mounds. These mounds were meticulously shaped into the forms of birds and bears, but other mound sites feature deer, bison, lynx, turtle, panther, and water spirits. The mounds serve as a testament to the cultural heritage of the Native American people who once thrived in this region.

Credit: Tom Ehlers Effigy Mounds National Monument Visitors Center
Credit: Tom Ehlers
Effigy Mounds National Monument Visitors Center
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The origins of the Effigy Mounds date back over a thousand years, with the mounds being constructed between 700 and 1,200 AD. Built by the Indigenous people, these earthworks were carefully designed and constructed using clay, stone, and other natural materials found in the surrounding area. The reasons behind their creation remain shrouded in mystery, but it is widely believed that they served as ceremonial and burial sites. Archeologists also believe they may have been used to delineate territories of choice hunting grounds, as well as landmarks for navigation and religious observances.

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Visitors to the Effigy Mounds National Monument can explore an extensive network of trails that wind through the forest. I took the most traveled path to Eagle Rock and Fire Point. It provided amazing glimpses of the little bear mound group. The hikes in the area offer a unique opportunity to connect with the cultural traditions of the indigenous past while enjoying the tranquility of the natural surroundings.

Credit: Tom Ehlers Eagle Rock Overlook
Credit: Tom Ehlers
Eagle Rock Overlook
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The site is carefully managed to protect its delicate archaeological features and maintain the integrity of the mounds. The mounds stand as a testament to the ingenuity and reverence of the Native American cultures that once flourished across the Midwest. It offers up a window into the deep-rooted traditions that once shaped our local world. And now you can take a look too.

Photos: Effigy Mounds National Monument - Harpers Ferry

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